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Vegetarianism: An Update

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Vegetables and Vegetarian Foods

Spring Volume: 2016 Issue: 23(1) pages: 19 to 20

For the Chinese, vegetarianism began when Buddhism did about the first century after Christ. From its inception, Buddhists treated all animals with compassion. To kill or eat them in their temples or in their homes or elsewhere violated their basic beliefs. Doing so created negative psychic thoughts. Many say Chinese Buddhists are the strictest of all vegetarians.

Numerous Buddhists temples did spring up along the Silk Route. Their presence served to move the Buddhist mission from monks to secular society. In 386 CE, the Northern Wei Dynasty was established. The Toba Turkic Emperor, Tai Zi, together with most of his people, embraced Buddhism and ethical vegetarianism. After that, vegetarianism became the normal way of life for most Chinese people.

Nearly a century later, Emperor Wu Ti continued to tout Buddhism and vegetarianism. He banned every type of meat from his Imperial tables, forbade the use of animals for medical purposes, and forbade their use in ritual sacrifice. This ruling was the first that told the Chinese people that not being a vegetarian was inappropriate.

During the Tang Dynasty (618 - 906 CE), Buddhism and the widespread observance of vegetarian diets reached their zenith. Chu Hung, a Buddhist reformer, became the great apostle of ethical vegetarianism. He gave it life even though it had minority status. He emphasized the importance of vegetarian banquet feasts to commemorate the dead, also vegetarian feasts on Buddhist festival days and vegetarian practices for other festivals. He spoke and convinced many Chinese to release animals readied for the table.

In the late 1500s, Matteo Ricci initiated considerable controversy between Buddhism and Christianity because he took an alternate position. He stated that vegetables, fruits, and animals were for every man’s use. His philosophical perspective weakened both Buddhism and vegetarianism in China, but this did not eliminate them.

Despite continued minority status, Buddhism and vegetarianism remains a living religion and a real practice in China. However, it is by fewer people than before. It is the rule rather than the exception among Chinese Buddhists and devout lay people. Vegetarianism, called chia in China, uses feasts as important aspects of this religion and their social lives.

During the recent Olympic Games in Shanghai, Buddhist temples displayed vegetarian dishes and invited people to special meals and they were invited to eat vegetarian food during sampling sessions. One letter we saw about this wrote about a monk who said he wanted people to eat more than two vegetarian meals each month.

An original board member of this magazine’s Institute, Wonona Chang, wrote an article about her sister titled: “A Pure Vegetarian.” Its purpose was to help non-Buddhists see how a committed Buddhist follows this religion in Sumatra, where her sister lived.

Those living near New York City can visit the Chuang-Yen Monastery. It is on Route 301 in Carmel, New York. There, one can see the Great Buddha, a recently completed statue, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. This monastery is open to the public, and interested parties can go there, see it, and be enlightened.

While there, one can visit and see the world’s largest colored porcelain statue of Kuan-Yin, and enjoy the Thousand Lotus Memorial Terrace that looks like an outdoor auditorium. One can also glean knowledge from materials in their Woo Ju Memorial Library. it has more than seventy thousand volumes. In them, one can learn about the Buddhist religion and about other world religions.

Some vegetarian recipes follow this article, and readers can make foods that followers make and eat to follow their Buddhists beliefs. This monastery is called The Institute for Advanced Studies, and it began at Stony Brook University then moved to this location in 1991. Here, visitors can enjoy the tranquility of the Seven Jewel Lake and its paths, the Red Bridge, the gardens, gazebo, etc. This ia a private institution and monastery, but it is open to the public year-round. The dining hall serves one weekly meal to visitors; that is on week-ends. As of this writing, they request a donation of five dollars for this wonderful vegetarian lunch.

For information and a needed reservation, do call them at (914) 225-8819 or fax them at (914) 225-0447. There, one learns about their dietary concerns and any questions anyone has can be answered at this peaceful place many readers tell us they enjoy. Now for those vegetarian recipes.
Deep-fried Chestnuts
2 pounds whole and peeled pre-cooked and packaged chestnuts
2 ounces white rock sugar
2 ounces granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons molasses
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Bring the chestnuts, both sugars, molasses, and four cups of water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for twenty minutes; most of the liquid will have boiled away.
2. Put the chestnuts in a strainer basket and let them cool.
3. Heat a wok or large pot, add the oil, and the chestnuts, and stir-fry them until they are golden brown. Drain them and let them cool. Then serve.
Sugar Snaps and Other Vegetables
1 pound broccoli, cut into small florets
1 cup sugar snap peas, ends and strings removed and discarded, each cut in half at an angle
1/4 cup peeled carrots, roll-cut on an angle
5 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and cut in thick slices
20 ginkgo nuts, cores removed
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Heat a wok or fry pan and add the oil, and in half a minute, all the vegetables and toss them.
2. Add two tablespoons of water and the salt, and stir-fry for one to two minutes, then serve in a pre-heated bowl.
Stir-fried Assorted Mushrooms
3 large button mushrooms, stem ends removed and diced, each mushroom cut into quarters
1 king oyster mushroom, sliced thin, each slice cut in half
1 bunch hon-shimeji mushrooms, stem ends cut away and discarded
1 bunch enokitake mushrooms, their ends cut away and discarded
4 abalone mushrooms, each cut into quarters top to bottom
2 spring onions, cut into one-inch pieces
2 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
2 Tablespoons mock oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil, in two parts
1. Heat a wok or a fry pan, add the sesame oil, scallion pieces, and the garlic and stir-fry for one minute, then add all the mushrooms and the oyster sauce and two tablespoons cold water, stirring well.
2. Stir-fry for two minutes, remove to a pre-heated bowl and serve sprinkling the other half of the sesame oil over them.
Eggs in Vegetable Broth
1 Tablespoon pine nuts, crushed
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon rice wine
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
5 Shiitake mushrooms, soaked for twenty minutes, stems discarded, and cut in thin slices
4 egg sunsitutes
1 scallion, thinly sliced on an angle
1. Boil five cups of water, add the pine nuts and reduce the heat to low and simmer for half an hour.
2. Next add the rice vinegar, and rice wine, the salt, sugar, pepper, and the mushroom slices and simmer another ten minutes.
3. Now poach the egg substitutes adding them one by one in this liquid, then add the scallion slices, and serve in individual bowls, one egg per person.
Herbal Soup
2 inched daikon, peeled and cut into one-half-inch cubes
20 Chinese goji berries
15 roots of American ginseng, cut in small pieces
15 red dates, each cut in half, pits removed and discarded
2 Tablespoons vegetable bouillon powder
1. Peel the daikon and then cut into one-half-inch cubes.
2. Put these cubes and all other ingredients in a two-quart pot. Bring it to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for twenty minutes. Then add salt and pepper to taste, if desired, and serve.

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